Wearable is hot. It is supper hot. The billion-dollar question remains, “How do we create the iPhone of wearables?” and “How do we create sub-ecosystems around these wearables?” and "What new business model opportunities will emerge?" The buzz is here but the money is not here yet. Everyone is betting on it and no one can afford to miss the train. Most wearable out there are just toys for the geeks. I can't find a reason anyone wants to buy this Sony Watch. Wll now everyone can see my Facebook messages. What is dumb idea! OK I can use it to tell time and the weather. Apple’s iWatch or whatever it will be called and Google Glass are getting so much attention and everything is figuring out what are the high value potential applications. Google has openly promoted its potential as an always-on, always with you computing device but it has yet to find a killer application beyond the obvious. They are hoping someone out there can figure that out for them.
And China is watching and Baidu is rumored to be working on a "Baidu Eye," an internal code name for a wearable device that features speech recognition for Mandarin, as well as image search technology, which pulls up relevant information based on a photo. So if you see a product, it will search for product info and price and availability. That take 'showrooming' to a new level.
The path to mass adoption for wearables will not be a straight-forward one and there are technology, user behavior and production economics barriers to cross. Apple, Google, Samsung, Sony and LG are all committed to play this game. Apple recently acquired a small company Passif Semiconductor founded by two Ph.D. students from the University of Berkeley, worked on developing chips with radios that consume very little power and work with the Bluetooth Smart (a.k.a 4.0 and low energy) standard. The acquisition will provide Apple with addition al expertise and expect an acquisition boom as players gearing up for the big game.
With all these buzz and emerging innovative conceptual designs competing for the dominant design there are still many questions to be asked about what the future holds and how consumers will adopt different product paradigm. Even the smartphone itself is still shaping our behavior today and we are still actively reprogramming ourselves. Smartphone is becoming the operation system of our professional and personal life and our relationships with the outside world and emerging systems around it. And when it comes to Operating System, the main battle will be an OS that will interoperate across all devices. This is the big play.
Expect to see all sorts of novelty design coming into the market. There are lots of novelties out there including a wearable electronic synthesizers to be embedded into T-shirts turning them into human musical instruments. There are also people using neurophysiological signals and brain waves to play video games. These will never be mainstream wearables.
Balance: The design of the wearables needs to fulfil the requirements of fitting comfortly with our bodies and many human factors considerations. The design needs to include studying the anthropometric measures of the human body and of the equilibriums between the various zones of the body. The connection between the physical form of wearables and their active relationship with the human form will be key to the concept success. These nerdy high-tech design will not cut it. Other considerations include comfort, the design to adapt to different body type (male vs female, tall vs short) and study of non-obtrusive shapes and the optimal conditions to let the sensors work well.
Benefit: The designers must first determine the real problem the wearable concept is trying to solve and needing to solve and able to solve. The benefit doesn’t have to be a known benefit today and could be some needs user don’t even know they exist until they see it. The design can open up new possibilities for people and must fit within the context of the user’s lifestyle and experience and the infrastructure around us.
Beauty: Consumer needs to love the design. It needs to have the visual appeal that the user won’t look like something you see in a Sci-Fi movie. It needs to be expressive and it doesn’t only limit to the form factor, but the overall interactive experience. The connectivity piece is key it needs to allow for seamless wireless connection. The interactions or interface design is the most tricky one. Are we thinking touch screens, gestures or eye tracking?
More next week. I won't tell you what works. I can tell you what definitely won't work. And like everyone else, I could be also be wrong.